What are Living Landscapes?

Our vision for A Living Landscape: A healthy future for wildlife and people

A recovery plan for nature

A Living Landscape is a recovery plan for nature championed by The Wildlife Trusts since 2006. It is a new way of thinking about how we manage land to do more for wildlife, people and the economy.

Isolated fragments of wildlife-rich land

Noar Hill nature reserve in HampshireNature conservation in the UK has traditionally focused on the preservation of specific sites. But outside these few places, natural habitats have been lost on an unprecedented scale and many species, both common and rare, are in long-term decline. As the demand for land for agriculture, housing and development has increased, so the room for wildlife and natural processes has decreased. This has resulted in small oases of wildlife-rich protected land, such as nature reserves, becoming surrounded by an otherwise inhospitable landscape for many plants and animals.

Emergency measures

Campaigning to save Oxleas Wood inthe 1980sThese isolated areas of protected land are now the basic minimum we need to conserve nature into the future. The founders of many Wildlife Trusts fought to save these special places - woods, marshes, meadows, moorland - but these were emergency measures, taken against a tide of widespread destruction to our natural habitats; refuges from which it was always hoped that nature would re-emerge when the time was right.

Thinking big

Large-scale heathland restoration at Grimston Warren, Norfolk (credit Mike Page)To achieve our vision for Living Landscapes, where wildlife is flourishing and recovering from past decline, now we need to think bigger and longer-term and build on the foundations laid by the work of past generations of conservationists. We need whole river catchments and entire tracts of upland with ambitious landscape-scale objectives that may take many decades to achieve.

Our Living Landscapes

The Wildlife Trusts are leading 150 Living Landscape schemes around the UK, working with and helping other people to restore wildlife to whole landscapes. You can see a list of the places we are working in here or click on the interactive map box in the right hand menu.

Naturally functioning landscapes

A section of the River Chelt - part of work undertaken by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust to re-align the river to a more natural course. In addition trees have been planted with the local landowner.Each Living Landscape scheme covers a large area of land: a naturally functioning landscape (such as a river catchment) often encompassing several Wildlife Trust nature reserves and other important wildlife areas. The schemes see individual Wildlife Trusts up and down the UK working with partners, landowners and local communities to restore the natural landscape.
These local schemes are all pieces of the jigsaw that will combine to form the wider Living Landscape we envisage: a national network of high-quality natural areas for people and wildlife.

Each Living Landscape scheme consists of:

Core areas of high quality wildlife habitat

Often these will be protected areas, nature reserves, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) etc. These are the vital sanctuaries from which wildlife will be able to re-emerge into the wider landscape once it is restored.

Connections between core areas

Continuous corridors of suitable habitat, such as river valleys or diverse hedgerows, act as ‘wildlife highways’ allowing species to travel through areas disturbed by human influence as they disperse through the landscape to find suitable living conditions – this is even more important in the face of climate change. Habitats can also be connected by a series of stepping stones, rather than a large swath of continuous habitat. Stepping stones are smaller, unconnected natural areas, pockets of protected land that act as stop-off points for wildlife on the move – for example a series of copses in open grassland.

Permeability across the whole landscape

Land between the core areas and connecting habitats needs be more accessible to wildlife. It may not all be pristine habitat but we can make changes to the way that land is managed so that it is easier for wildlife to move through and re-colonise the landscape.

It is also important that we manage the wider countryside more sustainably so that we can continue to benefit from the essential ecosystem services provided by the natural environment, such as clean air and water, healthy soils, food and flood management.

People and communities

Our Living Landscape work aims to reconnect people with the natural world and promote the benefits it provides - from the technical and functional (food production, clean water), to the spiritual (nature makes people happy!)
We work closely with local communities to promote the wildlife on their doorstep. Living Landscape schemes improve access to wildlife and green spaces and provide opportunities for recreation, education and hands-on volunteering. In fact, our volunteers are often vital to the success of the schemes.

Sustainable local economies

Many Living Landscape schemes also make sustainable, low carbon contributions to the local economy by providing employment opportunities, promoting locally grown food or marketing conservation grade beef from grazing herds.

In A Living Landscape...

.....wildlife is abundant and flourishing, both in the countryside and our towns and cities;
.....whole landscapes and ecosystems have been restored;
.....wildlife is able to move freely through these landscapes and adapt to the effects of climate change;
.....communities are benefitting fully from the fundamental services that healthy ecosystems provide;
.....everyone has access to wildlife-rich green spaces and can enjoy and be inspired by the natural world

Our work doesn't stop at the shoreline. The Wildlife Trusts also have a vision for Living Seas, where wildlife thrives from the depths of the ocean to the coastal shallows. Click here to find out more about Living Seas